On March 31, the UK Firefly and Serenity podcast Sending a Wave announced that it was coming to an end after twelve years of keeping Browncoats around the world up-to-date on all the latest conjurings in the Firefly fandom throughout the ‘verse. Sending a Wave will always be very special to all of us here at Take Back the Sky, because the podcast was the first media outlet to interview Jeff and me (way back in the 2012) about our efforts to convince Elon Musk and SpaceX to name their first Crew Dragon Serenity. Not only did our interview on Sending a Wave spread the news of what we were doing to a worldwide audience, it also gave our campaign a level of legitimacy in the Browncoat community that it hadn’t had previously. This was especially crucial to the success of our first online petition to SpaceX, which ended up with thousands of signatures from every continent except Antarctica, accompanied by comments in multiple languages.
About a year later we had the pleasure of meeting Wendy Scott, co-creator and host of Sending a Wave, in person at Wizard World Philadelphia Comic Con in June of 2013. At the con that weekend, Wendy interviewed me again about my work as the event coordinator of Pittsburgh’s Can’t Stop the Serenity charity screenings, and together we attended the Firefly panel that featured Adam Baldwin, Summer Glau, Jewel Staite and Gina Torres. Wendy is a lovely woman who is tremendously knowledgeable about science-fiction and the film industry and an absolutely fascinating person to talk to. One of my favorite things about Wendy, both as a podcast host and as a friend, is that her “BS-meter” is finely-tuned, and she’s not afraid to call anyone out if their story has the odor of a fabrication or a retcon. (If you don’t believe me, you can hear her give me a much-needed history lesson upon our first meeting in Sending a Wave Episode 93: The One with Dragons!)
When I heard about the end of Sending a Wave, I contacted Wendy to ask her if it would be okay if I achieved some closure of sorts by bringing things full circle and interviewing her about what had been great run of a groundbreaking Firefly and Serenity podcast. She graciously agreed, and on April 28 we spent nearly three hours on Skype talking about everything from the podcast itself to geek culture, science-fiction of all kinds, Joss Whedon, CSTS, the current state of the film industry and even American and European politics. As you can guess, that conversation meandered in many different directions. The following is a transcript of questions Wendy answered that were specific to Sending a Wave:
Back in 2014, one of my favorite characters from DC Comics, John Constantine, was given his own television series on NBC. The series, which was simply called Constantine, starred Welsh actor Matt Ryan in the title role and used many of the classic stories from the original Hellblazer comics that were published by DC’s subsidiary comics imprint Vertigo. Despite strong stories and a very good cast, NBC never quite figured out how to promote Constantine properly, and it was cancelled after just one 13-episode season due to poor ratings in its Friday night time slot, much to the disappointment of a small but loyal fan base.
Does any of this sound familiar?
SpaceX makes history at breakneck speed. In just a few hours, Elon Musk and company will launch their 50th Falcon 9 rocket!
Although it’s become the norm for SpaceX to refly its Falcon 9 boosters, it is actually a brand new Falcon 9 that will carry the Hispasat 30W-6 satellite to a Geostationary Transfer Orbit (GTO). The milestone launch is scheduled for the early morning of Tuesday, March 6 from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The two-hour launch window opens at 12:33 am EST, or 5:33 UTC. (If necessary, a two-hour back-up launch window is available at the same times on Wednesday, March 7.) The Hispasat 30W-6 satellite, which is designed to provide television, broadband, corporate networks and other telecommunications, will be deployed approximately 33 minutes after launch.
It appears that one of the trickier aspects of SpaceX’s launch-recover-relaunch operations might be the effect that launch delays can have on the ability to recover boosters. This particular launch was scheduled for late February, but was delayed because additional testing was needed on the fairing’s pressurization system. Back in February, the plan was to recover this brand new Falcon 9 booster aboard SpaceX’s drone ship Of Course I Still Love You, and the company had even debuted its brand new “spider boat” Mr. Steven, which has been specially designed to catch fairings. But the SpaceX recovery fleet was called back to port over the weekend, and the official press kit for this mission confirmed that SpaceX will not attempt to land the Falcon 9’s first stage after launch due to rough seas in the recovery area off Florida’s Atlantic Coast. It’s probably a good bet that SpaceX would have preferred to recover this shiny new booster to fly it another day, but Badger’s assessment of crime and politics in the pilot episode of Firefly applies to the business of launching rockets as well: “The situation is always… fluid.”
Speaking of fluid, if you’re on the East Coast, you might want to put on a pot of coffee if you plan on staying up to see the 50th Falcon 9 break atmo, but for those who want to watch the launch live online, SpaceX’s webcast of the mission will go live approximately fifteen minutes prior to liftoff at spacex.com.
Peace, love and rockets…
On Tuesday, February 6th, during a launch window that opens at 1:30 PM and ends at 4:30 PM EST, SpaceX will attempt the maiden launch of its newest launch vehicle, the Falcon Heavy. As a demonstration flight, rather than a commercial or government satellite, it will instead launch a test payload consisting of CEO Elon Musk’s own Tesla electric roadster.
The historic significance of this launch will be lost on most, dismissed by cynics as just another corporation debuting a new product they hope to court the masses with. What a majority of people fail to realize is that not all rockets are created equal.
After an impressive slate of achievements and historic firsts in 2017, SpaceX will kick off the new year with the launch of its still top-secret Zuma mission on January 5, 2018. The clandestine government payload, which was to have launched on board a Falcon 9 November 15 of last year, was delayed due to a payload fairing issue. That issue now appears to have been resolved, and a Falcon 9 is scheduled to take Zuma into the black this Friday, with a two-hour launch window opening at 8:00 PM EST. At this time the weather is 90% GO for launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) in Florida.
Not much more has been revealed about this mission or its payload since we first previewed it back in November of 2017. While it may seem unusual for anything that an Elon Musk-owned company does to have so little fanfare, it’s doubtful that we’ll have to get used to it.
SpaceX is set to have a spectacular 2018, starting with the planned maiden launch of the Falcon Heavy, which could happen as early as late January. The Falcon Heavy already caused quite a stir on social media when it briefly went vertical for fit checks at LC-39A at Kennedy Space Center at the end of last month, and Musk’s claim that its first payload would be his own Tesla Roadster has only added to the hype surrounding what will be the most powerful operational rocket in the world. We’ll be discussing the Falcon Heavy and its inaugural launch in more detail in the near future.
But the SpaceX milestone that we’re most anticipating in 2018 is the launch of the very first Crew Dragon, which will finally take US astronauts back out to the black from American soil for the first time in seven years. That launch should happen sometime late this summer or early in the fall, and when it does, we hope that the capsule will be named Serenity, after the Firefly-class transport ship in Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly and its follow-up motion picture Serenity.
2018 marks our sixth year of lobbying SpaceX to name its first Crew Dragon Serenity, and if you’re a Browncoat (or if you just agree that it would be a good name), you can still help us bring our efforts to fruition. All you really need to do is write a brief letter to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, along with company president Gwynne Shotwell, urging them to christen SpaceX’s first manned spaceship with that name.
In the meantime, you should be able to watch a live webcast of the Zuma launch at spacex.com and on SpaceX’s YouTube channel on January 5. Coverage should begin approximately 20-30 minutes before liftoff.
On behalf of everyone here at Take Back the Sky, may your New Year be filled with peace, happiness, prosperity, and of course Serenity!
Peace, love and rockets…
SpaceX plans to launch its thirteenth resupply mission to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 40 (SLC-40) at Cape Canaveral, Florida this Tuesday, December 12 at 11:46AM EST. A Falcon 9 rocket will carry an unmanned Dragon capsule into the black loaded with supplies, equipment and science experiments, including NASA’s Total and Spectral Solar Irradiance Sensor (TSIS-1) as well as a fiber optic payload. SpaceX will also attempt to recover the first stage of the Falcon 9 at the LZ-1 landing site at Cape Canaveral.
This is SpaceX’s first mission since indefinitely postponing the “Zuma” rocket launch that was to have taken place at LC-39A at Cape Canaveral last month. SpaceX indicated that it had some concerns stemming from a payload fairing test for another customer (the “Zuma” mission is supposed to launch a clandestine payload for an unnamed government agency), and that it was standing down until engineers completed their analysis. At this time that mission has yet to be rescheduled, but there are no such concerns for this launch.
According to SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, Tuesday’s launch of the Dragon will also be the first time that both the orbital rocket and the capsule are being re-flown. SpaceX has successfully reused Falcon 9 boosters on multiple occasions, and has already sent a reused Dragon capsule to the ISS, but this will be the first mission for which both the rocket and the capsule are flight proven. SpaceX has made reusability a priority for several years now, both in an attempt to lower costs and in order to take a significant step toward the day when frequent, perhaps even daily, launches both to and beyond Low Earth Orbit are commonplace.
A crewed version of the Dragon space capsule is scheduled to make its first manned test flight in the latter half of the coming year as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, and as you probably well know by now, it’s this Crew Dragon that we hope will be named Serenity after the Firefly-class transport ship in Joss Whedon’s cult-classic space western TV series Firefly and motion picture Serenity. (If you want to know how you can help us make that happen, visit our Take Action page.)
In the meantime, the unmanned, flight proven version of the Dragon will begin its journey to the ISS on Tuesday, and you can watch the mission unfold live online. SpaceX’s webcast of the launch will go live at spacex.com and on the company’s YouTube channel approximately 20-30 minutes prior to liftoff.
Peace, love and rockets.